The second important innovation in world rankings of universities in recent years has been the introduction of regional comparisons.
QS published the first Asian ranking in 2009 and followed it in 2011 with the inaugural Latin American ranking.
Both supplemented the measures used in the QS World University Rankings with new criteria designed to reflect the priorities of the region. The results focused attention on universities of regional or national importance that do not feature prominently in the world rankings.
This year’s Latin American rankings will be published later this month, with the Asian equivalent following in June. As in 2012, a world ranking of universities that are less than 50 years old will accompany the Asian exercise, underlining the growing status of the continent’s youngest institutions.
QS is the only organisation to publish bespoke regional rankings. A recent listing of Asian universities by Times Higher Education merely extracted the scores achieved by Asian institutions from the magazine’s 2012 world ranking.
The QS Latin American ranking will rate the region’s top 250 universities on seven key indicators, including the proportion of academic staff holding a PhD and the web impact achieved by each university. The longer-established Asian ranking will have two more measures and will include the numbers of research papers published and the volume of student exchanges at each university.
The use of different indicators to the world rankings and the exclusion of survey data from outside the region results in a different order to the global exercise. In Asia, for example, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology topped the 2012 regional ranking even though Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo universities were more highly rated globally.
Students and universities themselves will be waiting to see whether the huge investment in research by China is beginning to pay off in statistical terms and whether India will make a long-awaited breakthrough. In Latin America, the focus will be on whether Brazil can realise its international ambitions, beginning with whether the University of São Paulo can hold onto its slim lead over Chile’s Pontificia Universidad Católica.